Although asbestos was finally banned from use in construction in the UK in 1999, it can still be found in a huge number of existing buildings across the country that were built or refurbished before the ban came into force. As asbestos was so widely used before its serious health dangers were known, it can now be found in a wide range of building types, including sheds, garages, homes, schools, hospitals, warehouses, offices and factories.
If asbestos is suspected to be present in a building, how should this be managed?
If you are a homeowner with suspected asbestos in your property, like approximately 50% of residential properties in the UK, the Health & Safety Executive has information on your options. It is often perfectly fine to leave the asbestos where it is, as the risk level is very low provided that the material is in good condition and is not in a position where it is likely to be damaged. In such cases, the material can often just be monitored to check that its condition does not start to deteriorate. However, if the suspected asbestos material is in poor condition or is likely to be disturbed, for example by repairs, renovation or demolition, it is advisable to bring in experts to assess and either seal, enclose or remove the asbestos safely from the property. Asbestos needs to be disposed of as hazardous waste and your local council’s website will usually have information about where such waste may be disposed of.
If you are tenant, you should inform your landlord about the suspected asbestos as quickly as possible.
If you are a landlord, you may be liable to prosecution if a tenant is put at risk of or is actually exposed to asbestos. You should make sure that an appropriate risk assessment is carried out before any home repairs or other works begin and use a competent contractor to undertake the work. Although the law in this area can be complicated, landlords are advised to follow best practice for asbestos management to ensure that they create a safe environment for tenants and workers.
Asbestos can be found in a wide range of materials in residential properties, including those listed below, and it can often be difficult to identify:
- Water tanks (if asbestos cement has been used)
- Pipe lagging
- Loft insulation (loose fill)
- Artex or other textured decorative coatings
- Asbestos insulation boards sometimes used in ceiling tiles, bath panels, in airing cupboards, partition walls, around boilers or behind fireplaces
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Externally, asbestos cement was commonly used in downpipes, soffits and roofing materials
If you’re the landlord, tenant or managing agent of a commercial property, you may be responsible for managing asbestos in the premises, depending on the terms of the lease or contract. The person or body responsible for managing the asbestos should take steps to find out if the premises contains asbestos and assess its condition, keeping a record of the findings. This may involve having an accredited surveyor to carry out an asbestos survey. They should also carry out a health and safety risk assessment and prepare a plan detailing how the risks will be managed, ensuring that any asbestos containing materials are in good repair, sealed or removed. This information should be shared with anyone likely to disturb the asbestos, such as builders.
In commercial buildings, asbestos may be found in many areas, including:
- Asbestos cement used in water tanks, roofing materials, and flues
- Sprayed coatings on ceilings, beams, columns and walls
- Loose fill insulation
- Pipe and boiler lagging
- Asbestos insulation boards used in ceiling tiles, partition walls and fire doors
- Textured decorative coatings, such as artex
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Rope seals and gaskets
If you, or someone you know, has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease and you are looking for information on the support that is available, or are considering making a compensation claim, contact Dedicated Accident Solicitors to discuss your options.